Americans have celebrated Veterans Day for nearly 60 years -- ever since President Eisenhower signed the bill that proclaimed November 11, 1954, as the first Veterans Day. It's a time to commemorate the contributions and sacrifices of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. For several decades before the first Veterans Day, November 11 was recognized as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I hostilities in 1918.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs notes that since the end of "The War to End All Wars," as World War I was known, 22 million veterans have reintegrated back to civilian life. That reintegration has been difficult for many. Veterans face numerous challenges, including finding meaningful employment to support themselves and their families. Today's veterans are finding that, in spite of their training, bravery and leadership, they have trouble translating their military skills, education and credentials to jobs in the civilian marketplace. Many also have physical and emotional disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that further complicate the job search. Still others face non-work-related challenges such as lack of access to child care, health care, housing and transportation.
Because the challenges they face are so complex, veterans are often unsure of where to turn for help. We at Goodwill® recognize that difficulty, and as part of our effort to honor America's veterans, we provide holistic programs and services to returning military members. We also encourage veterans to enroll in eBenefits to access their VA benefits. By going online, veterans can gain eligibility to services much faster than if they filed by paper. On average, online claims can be completed in 113 days, compared to 374 days for paper filings. Through eBenefits, veterans can build financial stability faster.
Many veterans are surprised to learn that Goodwill does so much more than sell quality donated goods at low prices. One such person is Michael Jennings, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1997 until 2011. He was unemployed and living in his car for three and a half months when a friend referred Michael to Goodwill Industries of Houston (TX). Michael later admitted that he only knew of Goodwill as the place "where you went to buy clothes." He soon learned that Goodwill's mission is to help people find jobs. As an integral partner in the community's social services network, Goodwill also links veterans to the support services that must be secured before they can earn jobs. Michael is now working as a security guard at Full Service Security, a job he found with Goodwill's help.
I'm happy to say that Goodwill's holistic approach is working. Since 2011, Goodwill has helped more than 106,287 veterans and military service members and hired more than 1,873. But that's only the beginning. The Walmart Foundation recently granted $5 million to Goodwill to expand its Operation: GoodJobs program, which will serve an additional 4,000 veterans and military families over the next three years.
Goodwill also recognizes the special challenges faced by women veterans who struggle to find employment while taking care of their families. That's why Goodwill committed in June 2013 to engage 3,000 of these veterans over the next two years with services and supports that lead to economic self-sufficiency.
Though Veterans Day comes just once a year, we should remember to thank and support our veterans all year long. At Goodwill, we encourage you to let the veterans in your life know that we stand ready to help them address their career needs. As long as there are military veterans, Goodwill will help them support their families, just as they supported us in their service to our country.